“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”― Franz Kafka

Books inspire me and have always been my refuge to conflicts in life. Books have changed my life and they continue to…

In 1999 or so a friend (Tebogo Segola) recommended a book I should read and that book changed my life about business. From then I recommend books to friends with the hope that they will change their lives for the better.

The following are some of the books I read in 2015 and they are the top 20 that I highly recommend to those are obsessed about reading.

1. Marikana: A View from the Mountain and a case to Answer – Peter Alexander, Thapelo Lekgowa, Botsang Mmope, Luke Sinwell and Bongani Xezw


This has to be one of the most challenging books I read not only in 2015 but throughout my life. Franz Kafka talks about a book being the axe for the frozen sea within us. This is book is that axe.

Here is a detail review of the book:


Thanks Lolo for this book.

2. Kgalema Motlanthe – A Political Biography – Ebrahim Harvey


I’m not a fan of politics, but I’m a serious fan of good and quality leadership. Comrade Kgalema, (affectionately known as Mkhuluwa, meaning the “Elder One” or “Grandfather” in Xhosa and Zulu. ), is one of the few remaining leaders of integrity and honour. This book gives us a glimpse of what the man is about from a political view.

Here is a detail review of the book:

3. Dead Aid – Dambisa Moyo


Very provocative book. Dambisa Moyo is very brave to have written this book. She not only talks about things Africans are afraid to talk about but she offers solutions.

This is a detail review of the book:

4. Zero to One – Peter Thiel


I have two rules about books:

4.1 Read as widely as possible; and

4.2 Don’t read books that you only agree with

Zero to One is one book that will challenge your approach about life. Peter Thief wrote an entrepreneurship book but fused it with his life philosophy. He believes that instead of giving a student funds to go to university and get a degree, he would rather give him money to start a business because he believe nothing beats the school of hard knocks.

If you are an entrepreneur who is passionate about innovation, you have to read this book.

Below is a detail review:

5. A Man of Good Hope – John Steinbergy


This book about the plight of refugees, Somalians who fled their country due to civil war and seeking a better life in another country, in this case South Africa. It is about Xenophobia, about entrepreneurship and about a man surviving in a foreign country.

A Man of Good Hope tells one man’s extraordinary and moving story, revealing the reality of life at the bottom of the world’s worst pile.

Thank you Tebogo Segola and Nanny Alidah Kabini for the recommendation. You guys were right, I won’t regret reading it.

6. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari


Firstly saw his TEDxTalk titled Bananas in Heaven and then thought to myself, this dude is crazy. But then I googled him, I watched other talks he gave and I really liked what he was talking about. Then I bought his book and read it. I then later discovered that even Mark Zuikerberg read his book.

Humans beings developed language, anthropologists tell us, tens of thousands of years ago. Presumably the first spoken utterance was something practical, like “Lions are attacking!” or “Your hair is on fire!” But not long after came, “Who are we and how did we get here?” Homo sapiens, that congeries of narcissists, has been contemplating its journey ever since.

Here is my review of the book:

7. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert


I didn’t read her most popular book “Eat, Love, Pray” because I found it too mushy. But I somehow I stumbled across her TED talk about creativity, then I followed her on twitter to discover that she is about to release a book on creativity. As part of her launch build up, she would release excerpts from her upcoming book on creativity. I knew I had to read it.

If you are a creative person or are into to creative stuff, Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic is a must read. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

“Big Magic” wants to help its readers live creatively, which does not necessarily mean “pursuing a life that is professionally or exclusively devoted to the arts,” but “living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.” If you want to write or act or paint, this book wants to help you do that.

8. Disrupt You – Jay Samit


The business leaders of our future must anticipate change to create their own opportunities for personal satisfaction and professional success. In Disrupt You!, Jay Samit, a digital media expert who has launched, grown, and sold start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike, describes the unique method he has used to invent new markets and expand established businesses.

If you are an entrepreneur and a game changer, please get this book.

9. We are all weird – Seth Godin


Seth Godin remains one of my favourite writers. We Are All Weird is a celebration of choice, of treating different people differently and of embracing the notion that everyone deserves the dignity and respect that comes from being heard.

The book calls for the end of “mass” and for the beginning of offering people more choices, more interests, and giving them more authority to operate in ways that reflect their own unique values.

10. Talk Like TED – Carmine Gallo


Being a fan of TED and also involved with the brand, Talk Like TED is an amazing book about how to communicate your ideas in a modern connected economy.

For me this book is more than just about speakers and speaking, it is about (as Ithateng Magoro would say) how to transfer an idea in your head into other people’s heads. It is about ideas worth sharing.

I love the storytelling part of the book. I also love the fact that it uses amazing and inspiring TED talks as practical examples on how to transfer ideas.

11. The State of Africa – Martin Meredith


I didn’t know that there was a conference in Berlin

The Berlin Conference of 1884–85, also known as the Congo Conference regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism.

The Berlin Conference ushered in the Scramble for Africa. It is interest to learn how Africa’s borders were drawn, who drew them and how Africa was conquered by Europeans. Its actually not interesting, it is sad.

I love this book, I’m still reading it, but I highly recommend it.

Thank you Gomolemo for such an amazing gift.

12. Being Warren Buffet – Nic Liberman


One of my favourite books I have read this year. I always believed that there is so much power in humility and this book has confirmed my belief.

Little is known about what really makes Warren Buffett, the business magnate, investor and philanthropist, so extraordinarily successful. So, the author of this book, private investor Nic Liberman, set out to uncover what makes Warren Buffett tick. Through an analysis of Buffett’s letters and talks, Nic Liberman discovered that the essence of his genius may just be his unique combination of character traits.

Buffett’s lack of narcissism and envy, for example, are unexpected characteristics in a man of his magnitude, as are his qualities of loyalty, love and humility. On paper, his financial success may suggest he is a man of mercenary drive, yet he is modest, generous and patient.

This is not a guide to Buffett’s investment strategies. It is a thought-provoking investigation into the way his self-awareness has enabled him to forge a path to success, and that pairing our personalities to our endeavours may ultimately lead to fulfillment in all aspects of our lives.

13. Capital In the Twenty-First Century – Thomas Piketty


Watched his TED talk about New thoughts on capital in the twenty-first century, battled to understand what he was saying due to his heavy French accent, but read the transcript of his talk and his book and got him first time around.

This is a VIB – a Very Important Book.

It is important because it is a big book on a big subject: a book of grand ambition about inequality, written not by the latest “thinker” but a respected academic economist with real numbers to go with his theory. We hadn’t had anything like that in ages.

This has to the “Piketty as rockstar” phase, when the book is an “improbable hit” and people write breathless articles about the modern successor to Marx who could crunch the numbers but also quote Balzac, The Simpsons and The West Wing.

14. Anton Lembede: Freedom in our Lifetime – Robert Edgar and Luyanda Ka Msumza


When a group of young political activists met in 1944 to launch the African National Congress Youth League, it included the nucleus of a remarkable generation of leaders who forged the struggle for freedom and equality in South Africa for the next half century: Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Ellen Kuzwayo and AP Mda. It was Anton Lembede, however, whom they chose as their first president.

Lembede, who had just begun practicing law in Johannesburg, was known for his sharp intellect, fiery personality, and unwavering commitment to the struggle at hand.

This is an intellectual book and people who are passionate about history will enjoy it. I enjoyed it.

15. Sometimes There is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider – Zakes Mda


The last Zakes Mda’s book I read is Black Diamonds.

Sometimes there is a void is memoirs of Zakes Mda. Zakes initially finds freedom from close parental discipline irresistible and becomes a hard drinking frequenter of shebeens and an exponent of fast living and lascivious loving, but he also becomes politicized during this time. Here is a fascinating insight into the growth of development of both the PAC and the ANC in exile as well as contemporary social history. He’s made a number of powerful people unhappy with his views.

Although he ‘resisted the centre’ and ‘stayed on the periphery’ and sees himself as an ‘outsider’ who has been sidelined in many aspects of his country’s society, his contribution to the social and cultural advancement of his fellow South Africans remains undiminished.

Thanks Sibs for this book, I’m enjoying it.

16. The Goodfather – Mario Puzo


Saw The Godfather triology more than 100 times :), the read the book again, more than 100 times. This is one of the best books I have read and continue to read. This is a masterpiece. This is one book a person must read at least once in their lifetime.

I think part 1 and 2 of The Godfather triology are the best, I’m not sure what they were doing in part 3.

17. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future – Ashlee Vance


The next best book to read after Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson has to be Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk.

Jobs was a one-of-a-kind phenomenon, as was the book, Steve Jobs, but Ashlee Vance’s thoroughly researched, thoughtful Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future has come along to provide the next serving of techno-utopian fantasia.

Musk, coming off an occasionally brutal South African childhood and an abortive stay at a doctoral programme at Stanford, was a traditional dot-com baby millionaire, rich from having been forcibly cashed out of his first two companies, PayPal and Zip2.

Where most Silicon Valley nouveau riches would be content to bask in the reflected glow of their money, Musk chose to invest his in a series of new, quixotic concerns: US$100 million (Dh367m) in SpaceX, a company working to overhaul Russian dominance of the commercial-rocketry market while planning for a future attempt to colonise Mars, and $70m in electric-car maker Tesla.

Musk boldly chose to invest the overwhelming majority of his resources into his companies, and Vance’s book is a compelling tick-tock of the ups and downs of SpaceX and Tesla over the last decade, both of which approached insolvency on numerous occasions.

18. Creativity Inc – Ed Catmull


The book also up a fascinating story about how some very smart people built something that profoundly changed the animation business and, along the way, popular culture. Think “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Ratatouille” and “Finding Nemo.” Mr. Catmull’s narrative is seasoned with lessons he learned in the course of building an American icon.

Its about creativity in a work environment.

19. New Need New Names  – NoViolet Bulawayo


A remarkable literary debut, the powerful story of a young girl’s journey out of Zimbabwe and to America.

Darling is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad.

20. Eat, Drink and Blame the Ancestors – Ndumiso Ngcobo


If you enjoy Ndumiso’s Sunday Times columns and also enjoyed his books “Is it coz I’m black?’ and ‘Some of my best friends are white’ you will enjoy his new book: Eat, Drink & Blame The Ancestors. He is as funny as always. He has to be dubbed the best local comedian of writing.

Eat, Drink & Blame The Ancestors is a collection of his’s most memorable columns in that time, edited and reworked for maximum effect, providing the perfect overview of his unique and wonderful insights. Whether he’s consuming fermented beverages and communing with the ancestors, describing life with his terrorist children and skollie dog (RIP Spiderman), or dissecting dung-beetle philosophy with the Men of Thurst, this is the finest and funniest writing in the land.

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